Mackinsie Peterson, 5, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma when she was 5 months old and was forced to have surgery. A mass the size of a grapefruit had to be removed, but she has been in remission for 4 1/2 years.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Mackinsie Peterson, 5, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma when she was 5 months old and was forced to have surgery. A mass the size of a grapefruit had to be removed, but she has been in remission for 4 1/2 years.

5-year-old's cancer in remission

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— The 5-year-old running races with her grandmother in City Park isn't sick.

"It's getting hot out here," said Connie J. Robinson, Mackinsie Peterson's grandmother, as she took off her sunglasses and wiped her brow. "Let's go in the shade."

"Yeah, let's race over to the shade," Mackinsie said. "I'm serious this time."

And she took off across the lawn once more.

Mackinsie takes swim lessons, cares for several pets and bakes cupcakes, all with little reflection on her fight with cancer.

"Looking at her now; you couldn't tell anything was wrong with her," her mother Sarah Peterson said.

Mackinsie is a survivor of neuroblastoma, a form of neuroendocrine cancer that appears in infants.

At last week's Relay For Life, she was the youngest person rounding the Moffat County High School track during the survivor's lap, hand in hand with her grandfather, a prostate cancer survivor.

Mackinsie was 5 months old, and at the Children's Hospital in Denver being tested for another disorder, when doctors found the cancer.

In Mackinsie's tiny stomach, a tumor the size of a grapefruit had grown and spread into her liver.

"I was kind of in shock," Peterson said. "I didn't really know much about it, but I just wanted to help her. I'd do anything to help her."

The tumor was big enough that it needed to be shrunk with chemotherapy before it could be removed.

Peterson took a year off from her job at K-Mart to take care of her daughter in Denver.

For eight months, Mackinsie had a broviac line, or main line, into her chest to administer the chemo. The line was fragile and would cause problems if she scratched at it or pulled it out.

"If we were watching TV for hours, we'd have to hold her there, sitting," Peterson said. "And sitting, it's not something she's good at."

Youthful energy

Mackinsie carries herself in a way that causes others to think she is older than she is, Peterson said.

"She's been though much more than I have in my 27 years," Peterson said, watching her daughter play on the playground with boundless energy.

"The hardest thing for her during the chemo was that we weren't allowed to take her out in public," she said. " She couldn't be around other kids and play."

Mackinsie remembers only one detail about her time in chemotherapy.

"I remember that when I was little my mom had to sleep with me every night so I didn't pull my wire out," she said from behind her purple, plastic sunglasses. When asked what her wire was for, she replied simply, "It was for cancer."

Mackinsie doesn't remember all the care she received from the hospital, but she is constantly caring for others.

She has a pet rabbit named Thumper, and a new kitten named Blackie. She also has a dog, two cats and two fish.

She wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up, that is if she doesn't end up teaching swim lessons.

Her favorite game is to crawl around on the ground and "play dog," but she is worried she won't be able to do that when she enters kindergarten this fall.

"Also, I usually have naps every day, so that might be hard for me," she said. "But, I'm looking forward to playing with my friends."

She's also used to her mom being around her all the time. Peterson said she was at her daughter's side every second she was at the hospital.

Although she has been in remission for 4 1/2 years, she still has yearly check-ups in Denver.

"She kind of got used to it," Peterson said. "Eventually, she knew what was going on; she knew what the doctors were going to do to her. I felt like she knew what was going on, even if she was too young."

Now, Mackinsie said she doesn't mind the doctor so much.

"The reason I have to go to Denver is to see if I'll get sick again," she said. "The only thing I don't like is sometimes they make my mom leave the room."

She said she doesn't know much about her cancer, but she knows she's really tired from running around the park all morning.

She and her mother and grandmother retire to the shade at a picnic table where Mackinsie talks about the sap falling from the trees and how this corner of the park might be the perfect place for her upcoming 6th birthday party.

Though her fight with cancer happened before she could remember, Mackinsie will always bear the crescent-shape scar on her stomach and the scar from her main line just to the right of her heart.

"I don't think she'll ever forget it happened," Peterson said.

When it's time to leave the park, Mackinsie tried to entice Robinson to race her once more.

"I can outrun my grandma," she yelled as she sprinted across the park.

Comments

lonelyone 5 years, 1 month ago

Sarah, your daughter sounds like a delightful child......I bet she keeps you hopping all the time

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